Monday, February 05, 2007

Remodeling Europe's churches (with a focus on Transylvania's old 'fortress churches')

This is a very, very interesting article from Newsweek International about the status of old churches throughout all of Europe (with pros and cons to maintaining or converting them etc). Inter alia, they do not forget mentioning Paradiso, one of the most famous clubs in Amsterdam (and certainly one of my favourites), obtained by transforming an old church.

When analysing the situation of the old churches in Eastern Europe, the authors also mention the problems of maintaining Transylvania's grand "fortress churches". Indeed, rather than building a bunch of new crap churches everywhere in the big cities of Romania, churches that appear like mushrooms after rain, really (see also Claudiu's post, in Romanian, about the churches that invaded my own neighborhood, in Cluj Napoca), one should take care of the old great churches and see that such marvels of architecture are not lost (converting them in musea is something I would not see a very bad idea at all: this is not so much about religion as about preserving history and architecture, Transylvanian identity, if you want). The corresponding fragment from the article reads:
Ebbing faith is not the only reason for the abundance of disused churches. The atheist communist regimes of the 20th century, war and demographic shifts have all played a part. Take Transylvania's grand "fortress churches," which once served the region's large German-speaking community, descendants of settlers from the west who came to Romania in medieval times. Mass emigration since the 1970s has reduced the population to just a few thousand, and Gypsies have often repopulated the deserted villages. "The new residents just don't have the financial capacity or the emotional need to look after these churches," says Csilla Hegedus of the Transylvania Trust, which is seeking to preserve the buildings. The government's not much help. "The Ministry of Culture gives us what it can, but in countries emerging from the poverty of communism, it's difficult for them to give all that's necessary," says Hegedus.

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